Yuki Bhambri recovered from cramps just in time to down Tsung Hua Yang, but Somdev Devvarman's fate hangs in balance after a marathon unfinished second singles, suspended due to fading light, in the Asia/Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie against Chinese Taipei in Indore on Friday.
Troubled by cramps in both the legs in the third set, Yuki fought off pain and a sluggish opponent for a 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(1), 6-3 victory in two hours and 52 minutes which put India ahead in the first round match.
In the second singles, a defensive Somdev was locked in an engrossing battle against an offensive Ti Chen. Both players won two sets each before the fifth was tied 7-7 after four hours and 30 minutes.
When bad light forced suspension of the match, the score read: 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-2, 7-7.
Somdev squandered four match-points, including three in the ninth game, of the deciding set, as Chen has kept his side's hopes alive of leveling the match score.
The match will be completed on Saturday before Rohan Bopanna and Saketh Myneni clash with Hsien-Yin Peng and Hsin-Han Lee in the doubles rubber.
There was hardly any contest in the opening singles as Yuki, with superb control over his shots, hit winner after winner. Even after he started cramping and was limping, Yang was unable to take advantage.
It was surprising that the Chinese Taipei player did not go for kill even though Yuki was struggling to serve and his movement restricted severely. Yang had a fantastic opportunity to push Yuki out of the match but blew away the chance with an error-prone game.
To his credit, Yuki did not give up. His persistence finally paid off.
What followed in the next match was engrossing tennis as Chen played a solid game. He just out-manoeuvred Somdev. If the Indian approached the net, Chen would pass him with blistering winners, and come up with amazingly calculated drop shots when he stayed behind.
His ground strokes were solid and he opened up the court.
Somdev was 4-2 up in the first set and 4-1 in the second but allowed Chen to comeback from that precarious situation.
Eventually both the sets were decided via tie-breakers.
Somdev was routed in the third set, but, to his credit, refused to throw in the towel, keeping as many balls on court as possible and waiting for his rival to commit errors.
The ploy paid dividends as Chen did provide the Indian an opening by a few unforced errors.
Somdev broke Chen twice in the fourth set for a 5-1 lead. He dropped serve in the seventh game but Chen double faulted at 30-40 to allow the match to be stretched to the fifth set.
Now it was a game of nerves and Chen did lose control over his shots a bit. Earlier he was finding the lines; now they were going wide and long. One such error handed Somdev a break and a 5-3 lead but the Indian, despite being up 40-0, failed to serve out the match.
Somdev had another match point in the next game but could not cash in on it.
In the first match, Yuki dominated the contest with stupendous control over his shots. He kept the ball in and targeted the lines for winners.
Yang started to struggle after a disputed call in the fifth game, when he faced two break-points. He thought he served an ace but the linesman called it out even as the umpire did not notice it.
Yang had no option but to go for a second serve. He somehow saved the first chance but Yuki smashed a forehand winner to convert the break-point for a 3-2 lead.
The Indian consolidated the lead in the next game, which he served out with his first ace of the match.
Yuki set up the points with ease, especially the easy put away volleys, and consistently hit winners.
Yang struggled to keep the ball in as unforced errors crept into his game. In no time, Yuki was up 5-2 and he served out the set in just 32 minutes.
Yuki opened up a huge 5-2 lead in the second set by breaking Yang twice. But, suddenly, the Indian started to lose control over his shots. He failed to serve out the set as a double fault at 15-30 and the following unforced error put him down by two break-points.
He hit a backhand long, handing Yang his first break of the match.
That break infused some confidence in Yang's game and he served out the next game at love to reduce the margin to 4-5.
Yuki was now serving for the set but the execution that he showed earlier while going for the lines was missing.
A long fight followed in the 10th game, which Yuki served out but not before fighting off three break chances.
The third set was an even contest till the ninth game. Saving a break-point each in the first and third games, Yuki broke in the sixth game and capitalised on that to serve out the match in the ninth.